- Juan 'Kerr' Sanchez, 1827.
It's hard to get away from it all sometimes, the last vestiges of solitude being pushed to the boundaries of extinction by a social explosion. Camping is supposed to be a get-away-from-it-all activity and yet, many a campsite are blighted by a deluge of cheap lager, served in the eponymous, anonymous clubhouse to loutish parents bawling at ever-more loutish offspring interrupting any kind of peaceful furlough. Delve deeper than those sea-fronted bastions of managed mayhem, head off the beaten track and you'll happen upon a gem or two, perhaps nestled 'twixt forest and field at the end of a lonely drive, hedgerows high, and a welcoming smile.
So it is with High Yedmandale Farm, North Yorkshire. Only a few miles inland from the beach-front gaudiness of Scarborough and yet, seemingly in another country. Heck, it could be another universe. A tortuous navigation to the farm is a test, I'm sure, of the camping and caravan enthusiasts mettle. With minimal passing points, overgrown verges and a gamut of wildlife intent on throwing themselves blindly into the paths of passing vehicles, only the hardy need apply. Perservere though, and you'll be rewarded with stunning views, 500 square miles of woodland walks and silence broken only by the odd whinny from the resident farm horse, joyful bird song or occasional buzz of agitated mozzie. And solace, that sweet, beautiful, intangible word, tinged with emotion and loaded with meaningful memories.
Run by Ken and his wife Isobel, High Yedmandale Farm is edged by an ancient forest on one side and far-reaching vista on t'other. Serviced only by a single, spotlessly-clean shower and toilet block, the bare essentials such as water and washing facilities, it's little more than a field. Well-maintained at that, but a field none-the-less. The only concession to modern enterprise and technical innovation are electric hook-up points scattered blithely around and Ken may be able to supply an extension lead should you pitch too far from one. Endless cheery enthusiasm by the owners makes up for the lack of facilities.
And yet, it's the back-to-nature approach where the beating heart of this place lies. Witness dusk giving way to a descending blanket of unpolluted darkness and with it, the eternal heavens yielding their breathtaking secrets. Gaseous nebula bloom in unfettered vision, distant galaxies swirl and tumble to unfathomable forces, previously cowed stars break free from a hail-storm of unnatural ambient light to preen and wax with pompous audacity and it's this cosmic display of interstellar wonder that is played out before your eyes on a vast canvass of immeasurable distance.
As much as light from the nearest connurbation fails to drift over those emerald hills, neither does the other pollutant of an exponentially-increasing society, noise. As if a remote control had been pointed, the volume is turned down and after 10.30 pm or so, expect any continued outburts of jocularity to be admonished, or even banished the next morning should such single-minded inconsideration persist. Ken and Isobel expect their guests to be mindful of others and enforce this with sincere asceticism. I could kiss them.
Breakfast is catered for via freshly-laid eggs available from the farm-house, chickens clucking over the rich green pasture next door. Bonfires are strictly forbidden, the afore-mentioned woodland imposing too much of a fire-risk but there are stones provided for barbecues to rest on, lest they scorch the earth with unsightly blackened grass. The nearby village of West Ayton is walkable, perhaps 15 minutes at a brisk stroll, with occasional stops to admire the flourishing fauna and recalcitrant wildlife. It's a quiet, pretty village, tempered only by the main A170 to Scarborough. There's a couple of pubs and a rather excellent fish 'n' chip shop should your dining aspirations extend beyond blackened burgers on the barbie.
Dogs are welcome, providing they are well-behaved, leashed (on site anyway) and don't leave their mess everywhere. Cats, according to the website, are NOT welcome due to their predatory instincts playing havoc on the delicate rural eco-system. I don't know who takes their cat away camping but it's a big enough problem for them to mention on the webby. Large groups of people are given short-thrift during the booking process so don't expect to book a stag or hen night away here. Indeed, the website suggests such groups to take their business elsewhere, perhaps towards the twinkling lights of sin and sand in Scarborough.
As an exercise of soul-replenishment, there's nothing to fault High Yedmandale. It achieves gloriously what it aims to do and that's to provide a sanctuous haven to retire to for a few days rest, recuperation and relaxation. A tent seems more apt given the location, but caravans are still welcome providing they can navigate the single-tracked road. It's basic, sure, and you'll need a torch for late night visits to the loo but that's nothing hardened campers won't be used to. Laying under the stars next to a loved one, unencumbered by the pressures and rigours of modern living, dialling into the natural rhythm of the countryside, a wistful breeze roving gently through majestic woodland, a night sky of unparalleled beauty, it all just makes perfect sense.
The cost of this nirvana is £14.00 per pitch per night with extras for electric hook-ups, pup tents and the like. Please, try it at least once and leave the shell-suits and cans of Special Brew at home. Take some cocoa instead, you will thank me later.
Time of visit was in June 2011.